Tech Tools Yield Tech Skills for Small Business Owners

On this Non-Techie Tuesday, I pose two questions to you:
Are you intimidated by your computer, non-techie small business owner?
Do you use a cell phone resembling any of these?

I'll bet that you do. Now think back a few years... Would you have pictured yourself using anything that "complex" before you actually tried it? My guess is: probably not. Yet, you do it everyday!

Why then, are so many people still intimidated by their computers? - a colleague posted the cutest picture of her dogs on Facebook. She took it with her cell phone and uploaded it. Here it is. (If you are not a Facebook user, and you can't get there from here, my apologies). A couple of clicks and it was all done. I challenge you to acknowledge that your desktop or laptop computer can be tamed just as easily.

Start by recognizing that you control it, not the other way around. A bit of planning ahead to see to its care and feeding is all you need.

This article is about memory maintenance.
To better understand why that's important, envision this scenario:
You have just come back from grocery shopping for your family. Your children help to carry the bags into the kitchen. They sit them anywhere there is an empty space. That is fast and convenient -- at that time. You could leave the bags where they sit, but odds are you won't. You could still find everything, BUT IT WOULD TAKE LONGER. (Not to mention the fact that the perishables would spoil)!

Windows works in kind of the same way. (Sorry Mac users. I haven't used one for a long time).
Your files get stored wherever it's "convenient" for Windows to "sit" them, when you click SAVE. After a while, though, finding the files gets harder and harder. Some of them have even been split up and stored in two different "kitchen cabinets." The end result: Your computer gets slower and slower.

The solution is simple. Windows comes with a tool called "Disk Defragmenter" or Defrag, for short. Depending upon how often you save files, and how big they are, you may need to run Defrag every week. Defrag should be run at least once per month, in any case.

To get you started, here are links to the Microsoft site for how to run the Defrag utility.

  • Vista users click here. The instructions are written in an easy to understand manner (unlike the XP version linked below).
  • XP users click here. Fair warning: the article is a be "tech-speaky," but the steps can be followed.
If you have never run Defrag on your computer, the process could take hours. My advice: wait until your workday is over, then start it. Everything should work faster when it's done, unless you have other problems...

Happy Computing!

E-mail us with your questions, or leave Comments below, about how to reach your business goals.

© 2010 DMMI Associates LLC – All rights reserved


Manage Your Money Mondays - The Value of a Banking Relationship

How valuable is a good banking relationship?
Over the long haul, a banking relationship is to a business as air is to everyone: It is required!

"Keep skunks and bankers at a distance."
Humor from the Heartland

The quote above, widely accredited as "Old Farmer's Advice," is only half true. Your banker should be close -- in good times and bad. It is much easier, as well, to make a case for lines of credit or a loan BEFORE the money is needed. This is especially true now that credit has been and remains tight.

A banker who knows you will be more likely to help you. Small business bankers are increasingly creative these days. Certainly credit has not become any easier to get, but for a business owner with personal assets to use as collateral, and a decent credit score, money can be had.

One cautionary note: Make sure that the credit line is used to support activities that will replace the funds. Working capital to cover cash flow needs tied to customer orders is one good use. Cash requirements just to cover payroll, on the other hand, may not be.

Also consider forming relationships with multiple banks. The financial meltdown of 2009 bears out the wisdom of this approach. If you were a customer of a bank that had to tighten lending, you were at risk of being left high and dry in the credit arena. This article from Business Week "Multiple Banking Relationships" clearly makes this point.
Entrepreneur.com suggests "aggressively managing cash flow" as another tactic for both building strong banking relationships and business survival in "Grow Your Cash Stash by Managing Cash Flow."

Talk to your banker regularly. The good ones will share information and insights on how things work in their bank or credit union. Your business will be better off for it.

E-mail us with your questions, or leave Comments below, about how to reach your business goals.

© 2010 DMMI Associates LLC – All rights reserved


Can Your Password Pass a Security Test?

Are your passwords easy to remember?
More importantly: Are your passwords easy for someone else to figure out?
Good news: You can have the best of both worlds.
Here are a few suggestions as to how.

Begin with a mnemonic - a memory aid that is unique to you. This can be a word, letter or number pattern that permits you to remember and use password patterns multiple times, but keeps others clueless.

Then add an algorithm - a systematic approach for applying your mnemonic pattern to each new password need.

Here's an example:
Jodi likes music. She selects an orchestra section -- "brass" let's say -- that she can stick with for a while as a password base. She also can remember her fondness of fruit and a 3-digit number. Combine these, with a way to identify the site or program the password is for. The first two letters could work.
RESULT: Jodi's Facebook password could be "brass233berryFa" This combination meets the must haves for a strong password:
  • at least 6 characters.
  • contains a number.
  • upper and lowercase.
  • less than 16 characters (some sites restrict length)
Voila! Something that Jodi can remember, that is tough for others to discern, using a pattern that can be reused.
This works, of course, as long as Jodi has a memory that serves her well most of the time.

You don't have to rely solely upon your memory though, even if your mnemonic works perfectly for you.
You can store your passwords online. The founder of Noobie, Patric Welch wrote in a recent article about the challenges surrounding where to store passwords. He offers several suggestions for safely storing passwords on the internet "in the cloud."

"Is your head in the cloud about passwords?" aptly details the mostly upside of keeping your secret password sauce in the internet cloud, along with some additional safeguards to consider.

The next time you have trouble coming up with yet another password, you may wish to try this process.

E-mail us with your questions, or leave Comments below, about how to reach your business goals.

© 2010 DMMI Associates LLC – All rights reserved


Manage Your Money Mondays - Small Business Owners and Retirement

Why should a new business owner be thinking about Retirement?
If you have a business plan - even a one-pager - the very last (but not least) section should address your Exit Strategy. Eventually, you will exit from your business venture. Why not exit on terms that are most favorable to you?
REMEMBER: As the years go by, it takes a larger (and more painfully difficult to find) chunk of your earnings to build a nest egg for retirement.

Most of my clients are, in fact, planning to retire from the businesses they are running now. Some may start new ventures later, but the firms that they are now nurturing are also their means for building wealth. Retirement planning, therefore, is a key strategy for right now, not the future.

So, how does a savvy business owner address the issue of retirement planning -- along with all the other challenges that come with business ownership? The short answer: Face it head-on and treat it like the necessary expenditure that it is.

Retirement investment funds should be in your budget, just like every other planned monthly cash outlay. Whether or not this line item is in your corporate budget, your personal budget, or both depends partially upon how your business is structured. Consult your financial planner and tax advisor for the best approach. Sub-S corporations can manage this process a bit differently from LLCs, for example.

The bottom line: You gotta do it! For a perspective on the retirement realities and the impact of timing, see this Facebook video from Pete "The Planner" Dunn.

E-mail us with your questions, or leave Comments below, about how to reach your business goals.

© 2010 DMMI Associates LLC – All rights reserved


Cogent Cogenesis - Helping thinkVAULT Help You, Small Business Owner

"How can I help you?"
I first heard those words from a senior manager nearly 20 years ago. It caught me off guard, stunned me in fact. Those are not the words you usually hear from someone "in charge." They stuck with me, nevertheless, and have helped to shape my approach to fulfilling clients' business development needs.

So, as I roll out the next phase of
thinkVAULT's on-line virtual and tangible products and services, your needs -- small business owners -- are top-of-mind.

Information is proliferating on the internet at a dizzying pace. I've seen estimates that what took 20 years to double will double again in the next 4 years. My goal is to contribute to your business' growth, not your information overload.

Toward that objective, the information "menu" below is offered for both your planning ease and my sanity. You may expect articles, blogs, and tweets to center around the high-level subjects listed on the days indicated.
One of your opportunities to get more actively involved will be on Wacky Webcast Wednesdays. We will have some fun, while business-building information is shared with our e-viewers.

thinkVAULT Daily Fare.Subject or Topic Area.
Manage Your Money Mondays. From the top line to the bottom line and nearly everything in between.
Timely info you'll want to know about how to build wealth from your business.
Non-Techie Tuesdays. Tips and shortcuts to tame your computer and other biz electronics. How to shape them into the time-saving tools they should be.
Wacky Webcast Wednesdays. The cyber "wires" are open to you! Ask questions on the biz topic of the week or bring your own hot business issue to the Web-table. Watch for more details on the Webcast soon.
'Tough It Out' Thursdays. For the times when your Perseverance, Persistence, and Patience start to run out.
Fearless Five Fridays. Might be five of something -- might not. The fifth day of the week will be an eclectic mix of people, places, and things to help you keep your life balanced: Healthy Business / Healthy You.
SocMed Saturdays. Links and insights on how to better integrate Social Media - especially the "Big Three" - into your marketing strategies. On a day when you may have a little more time to tend to it.
May See You, May Not Sundays. Do I work on a lot of Sundays, like the rest of you? Sure. But I also seek balance.
(See Fridays, above). 'Nuff said?
You are invited to "tune in" any or all days and media.Watch for tweets on what and where.
There will be guests and input from expert sources, too. Let us know how you like it!

E-mail us with your questions, or leave Comments below, about how to reach your business goals.

© 2010 DMMI Associates LLC – All rights reserved


Who’s got your back?

Who has your back business-wise?

This entry is from guest blogger, Cindy Hartman of Hartman Inventory Systems.  a business and personal property inventory company

When you call a service company, you expect someone to arrive at the agreed-upon time (unfortunately, often that is within a 4-hour timeframe – but that’s a whole other issue).

For instance, a repair service for heating and air conditioning, the electric or gas company, a handy-man or remodeler, carpet cleaners, etc., all will give you a time and normally do show up within that specified time slot.

But what happens when they’re late? Of course, the utilities don’t have competition, but those that do, does this negatively impact how you feel about them? Will their tardiness encourage you to call someone else next time? Do you wonder if they really want your business? After all, they have a staff of employees … can’t someone arrive when promised? Even if late, they normally do arrive. And if they can’t come at the appointed time, you’ll eventually receive a phone call explaining the situation and asking to reschedule.

This brings me to the businesses that are sole proprietorships, the one-man show (or woman), the solo-preneur. What happens when they can’t get there? This happened to me recently. I had computer issues and scheduled a morning for the owner/technician to arrive at 9:00. That time came and went. So did 10:00 and 11:00, which encouraged me to call. I left a message, and an hour later sent an email. Mid-afternoon another phone call and another left voice message. I had plans, and rescheduled my day to be there, only to sit all day for nothing. What happened? I don’t know. I never heard back from him. No apology. No explanation. No “nothing.”

This encouraged me to consider our company. My husband and I are the owners and the service providers. What if we got in an accident? What if we both were sick and couldn’t call our customers who were waiting for us? We wouldn’t have anyone to make that apology and reschedule calls for us, either.

Everyone knows you need an exit strategy and succession plan when you’re a business owner. But few talk about the daily needs for covering emergencies. In a social setting, when some says “I got your back,” they are letting you know they’ll be there for you, no matter what. But what about a company? If you’re a small business owner, who has your back? Who knows how to access your calendar and where your customer files are? Who could make those calls for you if you are unable to?

Some suggestions are a trusted family member, a virtual assistant or a fellow friend/business owner. This small detail could save your reputation. It could also save your business.


How Visible Is Your Business?

Is your business as visible as it should be?

"The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow."
Bill Gates

Can the global village of today find your business on the internet? For just a while longer, search engines still "like" businesses with multiple pages on the Web. Can your potential clients locate you? Or, are you web-invisible?

We have almost come to a point where even a small business will need an e-Community Manager or a Social Media Specialist and an internet guru on staff. Creating the content for blog pages, web pages, social networking sites and more is a time consuming process. Yet, all of those marketing tactics are becoming less of a luxury and more of a requirement. Your business must be visible in multiple web venues to truly leverage the power of the internet. Without that visibility, a competitor is sure to usurp a lot of web-initiated revenue dollars that could otherwise have been yours. What's a savvy business owner to do?

The rise in popularity of social media sites such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, and twitter -- along with many others -- helps connect people worldwide who have never met in person. Could some of those people be future clients? Have you made it simple for them to get to know not only you, but also: Your Company?

Bill Gates also said this "I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act."

So, you may act on the information in this post, if you choose to do so. One solution for increasing visibility is adding richer content to your company's web or blog pages. One way to add richer content is though a Webmercial. It just so happens that thinkVAULT produces affordable, high-quality, branded informational videos that you can use to increase your visibility on the internet.
Here's an example:

thinkVAULT Webmercial Demo and Promo

How can we help you to kick your Web Presence up a notch?

  • Produce a Webmercial for you?
  • Set up a blog site to house your Webmercials?
  • Suggest a complete Web Business Solution for you?
If all you need is a single Webmercial, you can place your order to start the process below. We will contact you by e-mail and/or phone to get all the necessary details.
Your custom, branded Webmercial will be ready for you within just a few days.
** Some restrictions do apply.

Order your Webmercial

Select Length - Music Combination
Describe your message purpose:
Will you provide logo art?

The internet is a marketing tool that never sleeps. Could you better utilize it to vault your business to the next level?
If a Webmercial can help you, be sure to place your order today!

E-mail us with your questions, or leave Comments below, about how to reach your business goals.

© 2010 DMMI Associates LLC – All rights reserved